Monday, October 20, 2014

Three Camels

Three young men travelled across the desert toward the tent of The Great Sage, seeking precious advice.

The eldest of the three moved in front of The Great Sage, who was meditating, and said, "God bless You, Great Sage! Our Father, before dying, left us these camels, and it is his will that I should have a half of the herd, my brother Ali one third, and my brother Ismail one ninth. We've tried, Glorious Sage, we have divided the camels and divided them again until the void opened before us. Help us, Magnificent Sage, we are not gifted with your superior intellect!"
camels riddle

The Great Sage asked the pleading man "How many camels are there?"

"Seventeen, may God bless You!", was the answer.

The Great Sage smiled.

How were the camels divided, strictly observing the fatherly will and without butchering any of them?

Three Camels Puzzle Solution

The Great Sage added his own camel to the other seventeen. He then gave 9 camels (one half of 18) to the eldest of the three, 6 camels (one third) to Ali, and 2 camels (one 9th) to Ismail. Then took his own camel back and sat in front of the tent, thanking God for His generosity.

Another way to explain the solution, perhaps in a more mathematical manner, is the following, courtesy of Gopalakrishnan Thirumurthy.
The three sons are assigned their shares: 1/2, 1/3, and 1/9. The sum of their shares is 1/2 + 1/3 + 1/9 = 17/18. Out of 18 camels, 17 of them are left by their father. So,
  • #1 gets 1/2 of 18 = 9
  • #2 gets 1/3 of 18 = 6
  • #3 gets 1/9 of 18 = 2
9 + 6 + 2 = 17.